Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:06 PM
WC - Bills at Jaguars
Check out the latest line movements for Bills/Jaguars by clicking here.
The Bills and Jaguars meet up in the second AFC Wild Card game of the weekend in Jacksonville. Both these teams ended long playoff droughts with their postseason entry, as these two squads went on different paths on their way to Sunday’s matchup at EverBank Field.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Buffalo (9-7 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) survived plenty of ups and downs in Sean McDermott’s first season as head coach, as the Bills posted a 5-2 record through the first seven games of the season. During that winning stretch, the Bills took care of their business at home with a perfect 4-0 record, which included victories over the Jets, Broncos, Buccaneers, and Raiders. Buffalo also upset Atlanta as eight-point road underdogs, while the two losses came by six points or less to Carolina and Cincinnati.
Things went backwards in November as the Bills dropped three straight games, including a pair of 30+ point blowout losses to the Saints and Chargers. The defeat to Los Angeles was a perplexing one, as McDermott decided to start rookie Nathan Peterman at quarterback in place of Tyrod Taylor. Peterman was intercepted five times in the opening half of a 54-24 setback to the Chargers to drop Buffalo to 5-5.
The Bills rebounded the next week with Taylor back under center in a 16-10 victory at Kansas City as 8 ½-point underdogs, spurring a 4-2 run in the final six weeks. Buffalo still needed some good fortune in the final week of the season as the Bills held off the Dolphins to reach 9-7, while the Bengals upset the Ravens to hand the Bills their first playoff berth since 1999.
Jacksonville (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS) turned into the perennial doormat of the AFC South over the years, winning five games or less each of the past six seasons. However, things turned around for the Jaguars this season as they went into Houston opening week and dominated the Texans, 29-7, setting the table for a solid defensive campaign. Jacksonville allowed nine points or less seven times this season, but the most dominating effort came in an unexpected spot in Week 5.
The Jaguars traveled to Heinz Field and made a huge statement in a 30-9 rout of the Steelers as 7 ½-point underdogs. Jacksonville’s defense harassed Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger all day long with five interceptions, while returning two of those picks for touchdowns. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard score in the final minutes as Jacksonville ended up sweeping the AFC North this season.
Jacksonville and Tennessee went back and forth atop the AFC South, but the Jaguars pulled away late by posting a 7-1 stretch, including five home victories. Although the Jags lost the final two weeks of the season to the 49ers and Titans, Jacksonville still managed to finish second in the league in yards allowed per game (286.1), first in passing yards allowed (169.9), and second in interceptions (21).
WHO TO WATCH
Amazingly, Peterman threw more interceptions in one half against the Chargers (5), than Taylor did all season (4). Taylor never compiled a 300-yard passing game this season, but put together a 7/1 touchdown to interception ratio on the road. Running back LeSean McCoy suffered a sprained ankle in the season finale against the Dolphins, but is expected to play on Sunday. McCoy posted his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season (1,138), although he rushed over 100 yards only four times. The Bills didn’t receive much production from their wide receivers as the leading pass-catcher was McCoy and leading yardage producer through the air was tight end Charles Clay (558 yards).
Jacksonville’s defense was their strength this season, as quarterback Blake Bortles withstood the national criticism by tossing a career-low 13 interceptions. Five of those picks came in the final two weeks of the season, while posting five multi-touchdown performances. Fournette missed three games but still managed to bust the 1,000-yard barrier in his initial season (1,040), as his two best performances came in back-to-back weeks against the Steelers and Rams (311 yards rushing). Fellow rookie Keelan Cole led the Jaguars in receiving yards (748), including a 186-yard effort against Houston in Week 15.
The Bills and Titans were the only two playoff teams to own losing road records (3-5), although Buffalo won two of its final three games away from New Era Field. Buffalo compiled a 3-3 ATS record as a road underdog, including outright victories at Atlanta and Kansas City.
Jacksonville compiled a 6-2 home record, although one of those wins came in London against Baltimore in Week 3. The Jaguars didn’t pick up their first victory at EverBank Field until early November, but won their final five home games. Jacksonville covered four times in those five victories, but didn’t beat any playoff teams, while its two losses came to a pair of playoff squads (Titans and Rams).
Buffalo and Jacksonville didn’t meet in the regular season, but have hooked up in four of the previous five seasons. The Bills outlasted the Jaguars in November 2016 at New Era Field, 28-21, but Jacksonville grabbed the cover as 8 ½-point underdogs. McCoy rushed for a pair of touchdowns, including a 75-yard scamper to give Buffalo a 13-7 advantage. Both teams barely eclipsed the 300-yard mark, as Bortles threw for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while Taylor racked up 166 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills have captured three of the past four meetings with the Jaguars, as each game sailed OVER the total. Jacksonville knocked off Buffalo in London back in 2015, but the Bills were victorious in their last visit to north Florida in 2013 by a 27-20 count as four-point favorites. Buffalo and Jacksonville have met once before in the playoffs, as the Jaguars upset the Bills in the 1996 Wild Card round, 30-27 as 8 ½-point underdogs.
We all remember Buffalo’s early 1990’s run to four consecutive Super Bowls, although the Bills came up short each time. Since the new millennium hit, the Bills have not reached the playoffs, as their last postseason appearance came in 1999, dropping the famous “Music City Miracle” to the Titans, 22-16. Buffalo’s last playoff win occurred in 1995 against Miami, while its last road playoff victory came against the Dolphins in the 1992 AFC championship.
Jacksonville saw plenty of playoff success in its early years by reaching the postseason from 1996-1999, including a pair of AFC championship appearances. However, Jacksonville’s playoff prowess dried up since 2000, reaching the postseason only twice in an 18-year span prior to this season, as the Jags lost to the Patriots in the divisional round of 2007. Jacksonville last picked up a home playoff victory over Miami in 1999 by blowing out the Dolphins, 62-7.
VegasInsider.com handicapper Vince Akins provides a solid total trend that backs the home team, “The Jaguars are 7-0 OU since Oct 02, 2016 off a game as a dog where they scored less than expected.” This situation came up once this season, as Jacksonville easily cashed the OVER in a 44-7 rout of Baltimore on a 40 total.
Scott Cooley of [...] says the money is on the AFC South champions, “The Jaguars have been a pretty consistent pro play all year, and the sharps aren't backing off them now so the majority of pro money on the chalk. Currently, 70 percent of the money is on Jacksonville. Right now, our largest total liability is that Bills-Jags UNDER as the sharps and squares are expecting a defensive battle.”
The Jaguars opened the season at 40/1 odds to win the AFC championship at the Las Vegas Westgate Superbook, but those odds have dropped to 10/1. Jacksonville sits at 20/1 odds to capture the first Super Bowl title in franchise history, while Buffalo is the biggest long shot at 100/1 to win the championship.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.